They were the faces that launched Van't Schip's season; luring crowds into AAMI Park, selling memberships and helping to secure the immediate future of Australia's newest football club.
Two of Australia's football legends; John Aloisi and Josip Skoko have not only brought their invaluable playing experience to Melbourne, but have embedded a culture of professionalism amongst the playing group for years to come.
The rousing reception both players have received throughout their final season was eclipsed on Saturday night as the 6,000 strong unanimously congratulated both on their long and distinguished careers. It was fantastic to see so many members in red and white (as well as sky blue) stand and applaud as both bid adieus to the game that will forever remember them.
Standing and applauding on that chilly night, my mind couldn't help but wander back almost 12 months ago to one of the most important events in our club's short history. March 29th saw John Aloisi proudly unveiled along with our inaugural home shirt. The media coverage was intense and the signing immediately proved a masterstroke as we received quality exposure on almost every free-to-air news channel (usually overshadowed by other codes) alongside the print media.
The challenge for any new club entering an established market is to generate attention, make noise and gather financial backing from the corporate and public sectors. Without a doubt our club would have struggled to reach the achieved crescendo of publicity without these two beacons of Australian football.
It's quite rare to find two players who can so easily create media interest, command a crowd's attention and ultimately drag people from their comfortable surroundings into a stadium each week. Thankfully for all involved, John Aloisi and Josip Skoko delivered both on and off the pitch in their final season.
The contribution made by both on the field was equally as important as the positive publicity generated off it. Both players made at least 20 appearances (Aloisi 20 / Skoko 22) and Aloisi claimed the club's inaugural golden boot with 8 goals including the first ever goal in the Melbourne derby. Skoko's ability to calmly control possession or split an opponent's defence with an immaculately placed through ball will long stay in the memories of many Australians.
The pair also had a profound impact during the first Melbourne derby, spurring the Heart on to a historic 2:1 victory that will forever be etched into the memories of all Melburnians.
The experience provided to the youth from world wearied footballers like Aloisi and Skoko was strengthened by another veteran: Gerald Sibon. The tall Dutchman's fantastic season should also be mentioned as his long legs wooed the crowd with incredible first touches and lunging tackles. His 7 goals in 27 appearances was an extremely impressive return for a 36 year old and he was clearly disappointed at missing out on a contract for next season.
Congratulations and best wishes John Aloisi, Josip Skoko, Gerald Sibon and Dean Heffernan.
Thanks for your efforts in the red and white during our inaugural season with each of you being an individual brick laying the foundation for the long paved road ahead.